Religion Today Summaries - January 14, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - January 14, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:

  • Texas Seminaries Pursuing Freedom from State Control

  • Apathy Replaces Religion In Britain

  • Dalit Christians Demand Equal Rights 

  • Pro-Family Activists Charged In Connection With Sharing Gospel

Texas Seminaries Pursuing Freedom from State Control
Jim Brown, AgapePress

The Texas Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a landmark religious liberty case that will determine whether seminaries will be regulated by the state. Under current Texas law, seminaries cannot issue degrees unless the state government approves their curriculum, professors, and board. Tyndale Seminary was recently fined $173,000 recently for issuing theological degrees without a license from the Government of Texas. In response, Tyndale and two other seminaries filed a lawsuit against the state for violating the both Texas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. Liberty Legal Institute (LLI) chief counsel Kelly Shackelford has been representing Tyndale Seminary before the Texas Supreme Court in the case. The religious freedom defender and litigation expert says if the Texas high court upholds the state's authority over the seminaries, other U.S. states may follow suit. His concern, he adds, is that some state government officials will start thinking, "We can actually control all the seminaries and all the churches, and essentially, we will control all of the future religious leaders because we control the training of pastors and future religious leaders through the seminaries." Nevertheless Shackelford remains hopeful and notes that, while arguing the case, he felt the Texas Supreme Court was sensitive to the religious freedom issue. He says Liberty Legal Institute is expecting a ruling on the matter by this summer.

Apathy Replaces Religion In Britain
Baptist Press

A recent poll indicates a striking decrease in the number of people in Britain who believe in God. In 1968, a Gallup poll found that 77 percent of people said they believe in God, but that number has fallen to just 44 percent today, according to the Telegraph in London. Britons also believe their nation is becoming a more secular country, though many wish it wasn't so: 81 percent acknowledged the increase in secularism while 68 percent regret the fact. The Telegraph's YouGov poll on God and the secular society assessed the national mood as one of "benign indifference," saying most people seem to regard religion as a consumer good to be selected by those who happen to have a taste for it. Forty-six percent said they were agnostics, 35 percent claimed the atheist title and 18 percent said they didn't know, the Telegraph said. Among the 44 percent of believers, 87 percent described themselves as believing in one God, 3 percent as believing in more than one god, and 10 percent as believing in some other kind of supreme being. Today, just 38 percent of Britons believe in heaven and 23 percent believe in hell, the Telegraph found. But while Britain is growing more secular, most residents would prefer for the Queen to continue to be the head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith.

Dalit Christians Demand Equal Rights
Compass Direct

India's Supreme Court has asked the federal government why Dalits (or "Untouchables") who convert to Christianity are denied access to a quota system for state employment. Under India's caste system, about 26 percent of government jobs are reserved for members of Scheduled Castes with the aim of bringing them into the social mainstream. Initially, Dalits converting to other religions such as Sikhism or Buddhism were also excluded; however, the law was amended to provide a job quota for Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists. "Only the Christian community is now excluded," said senior advocate Shanti Bhushan of the Centre for Public Interest Litigation. Quota rights were denied to Dalit Christians on the grounds that Christianity does not discriminate between castes. However, this argument ignores the fact that Indians live in a society bound by centuries of caste tradition. The court expects a response from the federal government before the end of January.

Pro-Family Activists Charged In Connection With Sharing Gospel

In Philadelphia, the case of five pro-family activists, one of whom is a minor, charged in connection with sharing the gospel at a homosexual event is back before the courts. The three felonies and five misdemeanors that are leveled at the four adult activists could add up to 47 years in prison. The demonstrators face arraignment for alleged ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy, and inciting to riot. Film shot for an upcoming documentary titled The Philadelphia Five shows Michael Marcavage and other members of Repent America trying to make themselves heard over homosexual activists who whistled and surrounded them with pink signs. When Marcavage complained to police, he and his fellow Christians were arrested and jailed. The demonstrators are being represented by attorneys with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, who announced earlier today they planned to file a renewed motion for emergency relief in federal district court. That motion cites statements from the district attorney's office as new evidence supporting the necessary federal intervention in the case.